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Josephine Miles was born in Chicago on June 11, 1911, but spent most of her life in California. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where she spent her entire academic career and where, in 1947, she became the first woman to be tenured in the English department.
Miles wrote over a dozen books of poetry, among them Collected Poems: 1930–1983 (University of Illinois Press, 1983), winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Coming to Terms (University of Illinois Press, 1979); To All Appearances (University of Illinois Press, 1974); Kinds of Affection (Wesleyan University Press, 1967); Prefabrications (University of Michigan Press, 1955); Local Measures (University of California Press, 1946); and Lines at Intersection (Macmillan, 1939).
Miles was a well-known scholar on the conventions of grammar and vocabulary in literature, and published several books on poetic style and language. Her honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, The American Council of Learned Societies, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Miles died of pneumonia on May 12, 1985 in Berkeley, California.